Devil: Yeah, it's a real problem we've been having lately. You know, with all the overcrowding? It's the influence, really; honestly, I blame myself.
Some customers are just too tough to stay in the afterlife after they've checked out of the land of the living. Hell is supposed to be the ultimate prison, but can any prison be truly called escape-proof?
This type of character usually has Unfinished Business in the world of the living. Not even being locked up in the underworld will stop them from their purpose, even if they have to carve a bloody path through The Legions of Hell to get out. Since Satan likely isn't very fond of anyone escaping his grasp, his minions may still be hot on the escapee's tail up on Earth.
They could be described as a revenant, though sometimes they may only exist on Earth as incorporeal souls. This also raises the question of whether they can truly be considered "alive" or "dead", and if being killed would send them right back. Whether they return to the afterlife after their work is done also varies; maybe they go right back where they came from, but some ascent to Heaven instead for all the good they've done. Or they just stay on Earth, having grown fond of the outside.
The inverse of Dragged Off to Hell. Contrast To Hell and Back, where the heroes take a voluntary trip into Hell to wreak some havoc. Compare Rescued from the Underworld, when someone else broke them out of Hell; and Barred from the Afterlife, when they were kicked out of Hell.
- In King of Thorn, Marco Owen is being taken away by The Grim Reaper after deciding that it's Better to Die than Be Killed when he changes his mind and decides to go back. He outruns the reaper and returns to his thoroughly-wrecked body. A Heroic Sacrifice by another character patches him up, and He's Back.
- Dragon Ball:
- Dragon Ball Z: Son Goku lands in the Home For Infinite Losers after falling from Snake Way. However, it's Played for Laughs. Instead of going into total badass mode, he uses his superpowers to beat the Oni in sumo matches and games of tag in order to be let out.
- In Dragon Ball Z: Fusion Reborn, thanks to Janemba imprisoning the Other World Check-In Station, breaking down the borders between the world of the living and the world of the dead, every single villain the Z-Fighters have ever faced escape Hell. However, while the heroes have trained and become far stronger in the meantime, the villains haven't, making dispatching them far easier.
- In Dragon Ball GT, the villains who had been previously killed by the Z-fighters escape again, this time thanks to Dr. Gero and Dr. Myuu opening a portal as part of their plot. The villains are once again, defeated easily.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's, a trap sprung by Rudger after Yusei defeats him sends him falling into the Old Momentum generator, and he ends up in a hellish place where he is assaulted by the spirits of everyone who was killed in Zero Reverse. Fortunately for him, one of these spirits is his father, who helps him escape.
- In the manga adaptation of the Kirby series, Kirby dies and is sent to Hell after eating all the food in Heaven. There he defeats the Devil (played by Nightmare) and makes Hell more "fun", with attractions such as a mountain-of-spikes ring toss and a lake of boiling red wine instead of blood. This becomes obnoxious and Dark Mind is relieved when Kirby leaves (somehow by holding on to the tongue of Gooey).
- In Martian Successor Nadesico Show Within a Show Gekiganger III, Jou suddenly appears from Hell in the final episode, piloting Gekiganger III and giving Gekiganger V a Gekigan Blade to perform a final attack to destroy all evil. Akito officially makes this the worst episode of the bunch and drives home the fact that using the series (any series) as basis for life is pretty dumb.
- Bleach Hell Verse: The villains of the movie have this trope as their goal. To fully escape Hell, Shuren and his men lure out Ichigo and try to use his Hollow powers to destroy Hell's gate, so they can escape for real. It later turns out that this is not enough to escape Hell. The true Big Bad, Kokuto, explains that as long as Hell's chains are connected to their bodies, it's impossible to escape from Hell. Kokuto needs Ichigo's powers to destroy his chains, and in the end, he succeeds, but as Laser-Guided Karma kicks in, Kokuto gets more chains attached to him and is dragged to the deepest depths of Hell.
- Wolverine has been sent to Hell in the first story of his series. He managed to escape with the help of Alpha Flight member Puck, who was there for some reason. Puck ended up taking over Hell after he and Logan killed the Devil. He later gives up his position to get back to life and save his teammates.
- In Iron Man: Legacy of Doom, Doctor Doom betrays Tony and traps him in Mephisto's Realm, where Mephisto declares that Tony will be trapped there FOREVER! Tony's response to this is to fight off both the minions of Hell and a demonic apparition of his father, and then use the power of technology to escape. All in the span of about thirty minutes, which may or may not set some sort of record where Badass Normals are concerned.
Mephisto: I hate it when that happens. Really.
- The X-Statix sequel miniseries Dead Girl was based around the idea of various dead Marvel characters breaking out of Hell, and Dead Girl and Doctor Strange having to team up to deal with them.
- In Godzilla in Hell, Godzilla finds himself in the underworld after having accidentally destroyed the entire planet and refused to submit to God's will. But not even the weight of eternal damnation in the deepest pit of Hell itself is enough to stop the King of the Monsters. He finds demons disguised as temptations? He just plows right through them. He finds himself facing his old foes one after another? He one-shots all of them. He finds himself in a war between angels and demons? He ignores either side. He gets trapped in an eternal battle? He finds a way to break out. He finds himself facing an unclimbable mountain with an enormous Eldritch Abomination at the peak? He lets himself get Devoured by the Horde, and reveals he's Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth, as his essence assimilates the demon horde, which obliterate the mountain and abomination in one shot.
- In The Smurfs comic book story "The Egg And The Smurfs", an indecisive Smurf who couldn't figure out what he would wish for from the magic egg was sent to Hell by another Smurf who became so impatient that he said "to the devil with you" while bumping into the egg. When Papa Smurf uses the magic egg to undo all the wishes his little Smurfs have made, that Smurf shows up returned from hell with a pitchfork in his hand.
- In a Superman story arc from the 1990s, Superman goes to Hell to save the souls of both Jimmy Olsen and Perry White's son Jerry from the demoness Blaze, who wants to claim them for herself. Superman manages to save Jimmy while Jerry sacrifices himself to save Jimmy, then escapes from Hell through an eruption of a volcano.
- In Honor Trip, this is subverted in a very satisfying way with Future Cell in Chapter 49. He tries to escape, but is initially stopped by Enma Daimaou, & immediately after is on the receiving end of a 3-way No-Holds-Barred Beatdown from the heroes.
- A similar scene occurs in Bringer Of Death with Perfect Cell. He manages to sneak out of Hell by following the same path as Vegeta, Goku and Pikkon, and gets past the Test Of Character by mimicking the required positive energy, but when he tries using Instant Transmission to escape the afterlife from Snake Way, the very fabric of existence itself dumps him right back at the check-in station. As it turns out, it's impossible for anyone from the afterlife to exist in the real world (with the only exception being the people given special bodies for the Kai's Warrior Heaven). To prevent Cell from simply escaping Hell constantly and wreaking havoc at the check-in, Vegeta and Goku are forced to completely obliterate his soul, leaving him Deader Than Dead.
- Happens in the Pony POV Series when Fluttercruel finds herself being judged by a Jury of the Damned, who sentences her to lose her sapience. She realizes Fluttershy still needs her help to be saved from the darkness and refuses to fade away until she's made amends for causing her fall in the first place. She has to fight her way out of the court, getting clawed up pretty bad in the process, to make it back to the world of the living to make her Big Damn Heroes moment and help the Mane Cast save Fluttershy from herself.
- Happens as well in the spin-off Pony POV Series Chaos Verse. Discord goes to Oblivion in "Not One Of A Kind" to save Fluttercruel and makes it back out again.
- With This Ring has this happen with Anton Arcane, having escaped Hell and become the Avatar of The Rot, the elemental force of all dead matter on Earth. He plans on using the daughter of Swamp Thing and Abigail Arcane to tap into The Green, and corrupt all plant life in the world. On top of that, he didn't escape Hell alone, he brought Deacon Blackfire with him!
- John Milton of Drive Angry breaks out of Hell to rescue his granddaughter. Toyed with, as after he finishes this, he is willingly taken back without a fight. Though he comments that he'll break out again.
- Johnny Bartlett, the Big Bad of the movie The Frighteners, escapes from Hell so he can continue his heinous quest to have a higher body count than past serial killers.
- In the Christian film Escape From Hell, a doctor puts himself under cardiac arrest to experience the afterlife, and finds himself in Hell, which he escapes from, only to find that Hell was coming after him to claim him. He seeks help and becomes a believer in Jesus Christ to escape from Hell's clutches by the film's end.
- Jirel of Joiry, the first pulp fantasy heroine, fought her way out of Hell. Repeatedly, in several variations.
- Wielding a Red Sword: When Satan tricks Mym, the Incarnation of War, into Hell to keep him out of the way while he enacts his plans, Mym successfully leads a revolt.
- Old Kingdom: This is how really powerful undead are created. The farther down into the afterlife they fight their way back from, the stronger they are when they pop out and find a body to possess.
- Paradise Lost: Satan himself had to escape from Hell before he could truly rule, doing so by making a bargain with Sin and Death, who had been placed there to guard the exit.
- The Heroes of Olympus. Nico di Angelo manages to escape Tartarus in "Mark of Athena", and later Percy and Annabeth fall down there as well. They fight through the Greek mythological hell pit and manage to escape! It's as terrifyingly awesome as it sounds.
- In Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey, the main character is a modern-day magician, betrayed and sent to Hell where he kills countless demons in the fighting pits until he is recruited as an assassin of demon lords and ultimately escapes. The book begins when he first returns to Earth, looking for revenge.
- In Pact this is a standard origin for Revenants, the restless dead, who are driven to return to Earth by The Power of Hate no matter how many times they are killed. Bogeymen have a similar origin; generally, victims of catastrophes or those who have otherwise been forgotten and slipped through the cracks of society and the world, they end up trapped in the Drains, an Eldritch Location where they are ground down to the most basic aspects of their being and then claw their way back to the real world.
- Within the first thirty pages of the first book of the Tomoe Gozen Saga, Tomoe dies and fights her way back up from Yomi.
- In Dante Valentine: Working for the Devil, Lucifer explains that ordinarily, only demons of the Greater Flight are able to leave Hell. Vardimal Santino, "scum" of the Lesser Flight, escaped with a MacGuffin about fifty years prior.
- In Dilvish, the Damned, Dilvish inadvertently interrupted a dark ritual, and the sorcerer performing it turned his body to stone and banished his soul to Hell out of annoyance. He got out, but only with help.
- In Supernatural, John Winchester seizes the opportunity to claw his way out of Hell when the Hell Gate opens during the season 2 finale.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy does this in the third season, though as hells go, this one was more like Satanic factory than eternal fire, and it had a simple two-way door.
- Charmed : Cole manages to escape Hell by absorbing the powers of other fallen demons until he became Nigh Invulnerable, even becoming able to kill the massive worm that feasted on the souls of the damned there. Unfortunately for him, since his newly-obtained powers were evil by nature, Phoebe, the woman he loved and married, ended up divorcing from him because he now brought her more harm than good, leaving him unable to even kill himself out of the grief.
- Brimstone: 113 of the most evil damned souls in Hell escape to Earth; the Devil sends deceased cop Ezekiel Stone topside to bring them all back in exchange for being restored to life himself.
- Angel: After escaping Hell, Connor was being called something like "The Destroyer, Bringer of Pain and Death" by the demons that came out of the portal first in an attempt to get away from him.
- In Reaper, it's Sam's job to capture souls who had escaped Hell and bring them back. Exactly how they escaped isn't revealed until later in the series: the demon Gladys was helping some escape.
- In one episode of Poltergeist: The Legacy, Nick's older brother escapes from hell with a demonic hunter in hot pursuit. It's subverted when the hunter reveals to Nick that the only way to truly escape hell is to offer the soul of a loved one to replace your own. Nick's older brother had offered up Nick. In the end, his brother couldn't go through with it and sacrificed himself to save Nick and returned to hell in the process.
- Grimm: Renard is resurrected by his mother, but that leaves him prone to possession by the legendary serial killer Jack the Ripper, who claims to have escaped the afterlife multiple times and even before his glory days. Given the host's current title, this does not end well.
- Sisyphus from Classical Mythology talked his way out of Tartarus. Twice. But not for a third time. And the stunts he pulled in the past did not endear him to Hades.
- The Bible: In the interim between death and resurrection, Jesus, laden with the sins of the human race, inevitably went to Hell. It was a brief stay to dump the burden where it belonged, and now free from sin, he was able to walk out again with Hell unable to hold him. This is only alluded to in Biblical text itselfnote , but the Apostles' Creed, held as writ by the major denominations, tells us of the Harrowing of Hell, and Christian teaching as old as the Bible has it that Jesus liberated truly repentant souls, as well as the righteous dead of the Old Testament era, leading them out of Hell into Heaven.
I believe in Jesus Christ....
(who) was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended into hell.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven...
- The Adventure Zone: Balance has Legion and Maureen Miller, souls who tried to escape the afterlife multiple times, and were thus put in the Eternal Stockade.
- This may be possible in the D&D setting Eberron. The first stage of the afterlife (no one knows about what comes after you've faded away there) is simply another plane. A plane that will quickly sap you of the will necessary to leave it and has lots of powerful guardians, but a regular plane nevertheless. And considering the setting's pulpy larger-than-life attitude towards heroes...
- Old World of Darkness
- Characters of the game Wraith: The Oblivion can under certain circumstances claw their way back into the lands of the living as Risen. Even though they just reek of The Crow, the white face paint is not obligatory.
- This is also the nature of the Kuei-Jin from Kindred of the East - damned souls who clawed their way out of the Ten Thousand Hells and back into their mortal bodies.
- The player characters in Demon: The Fallen are minor fallen angels who escaped from the Abyss when its walls cracked under the Sixth Maelstrom and latched onto human hosts to stay in the mortal world. There are also the Earthbound—much more powerful demons who instead escaped via diabolists' summons and possessed inanimate objects instead.
- In the New World of Darkness game Mage: The Awakening, death masters and archmasters are famous for kicking down the doors and walking back out with reinforcements after they've technically (due to previous fiddling with death/life/time magic) or actually (with pure death magic, cheating, and willpower) died.
- Sigmar Heldenhammer in Warhammer Fantasy Battles did this when he entered the afterlife (which isn't really Hell) was attacked by an army of daemons, summoned an army of spirit warriors and got out.
- The escape of Lord Soth from Ravenloft is quite possibly the weirdest case of this trope ever. He escapes from Ravenloft (essentially, a trap for various 'darklords') by not giving a crap. Soth basically accepts that he deserves to be tormented by the Dark Powers and admits his failures. He refuses to rise to anything they present him with, be it despair or hope; eventually, realizing that it's pointless to keep him around since he won't respond to anything they do, the Dark Powers release him from Ravenloft.note
- God of War Series
- Kratos did this in God of War, and again near the beginning of God of War II - although that time, he wasn't really ALL the way down there before he turned around and clawed his way back out again.
- Chains of Olympus had Kratos do this with the Greek equivalent to Hell and Heaven, though this was a semi-deliberate act, since he was charged by the gods to find Helios (god of the sun), and Hades was where his search led him. It fits, instead of being just a To Hell and Back scenario, as he's killed by Charon shortly after arriving.
- The Barbarian King from God of War II beat up the guards of Hell with his giant hammer and rode out the gates on his fleshy fire horse.
- Kratos does this once again in God of War III, this time making sure to kill Hades. By this point Kratos doesn't even seem remotely concerned about finding himself dead; it's not like it has ever bothered him yet.
- Asura's Wrath: Asura claws himself out of Naraka when he was banished to it. When he ends up there again, he goes out of it faster.
- Godot in Ace Attorney claims that he has 'come back from Hell to do battle' with Phoenix Wright. Given the potential for ghosts and spirit channeling in the series, he might well be telling the truth. Although he actually just came out of a five year poison-induced coma.
- Doom. The Marine dies at the end of the first episode. Three episodes later, he finds a portal back to Earth as the ending text says he was "too tough for Hell to contain". DOOM (2016) also plays with this in a Broad Strokes manner; instead of the Doom Slayer dying and subsequently escaping from Hell, he was instead imprisoned by demons out of fear that they couldn't truly destroy him. The sarcophagus he had been trapped in was subsequently retrieved by Dr. Samuel Hayden and a team of Praetorians before being brought to the UAC facility on Mars, where he wakes up.
- TaskMaker: When you die, you have to make your way through a fiery maze in Fire and Brimstone Hell without your weapons back to the living, while avoiding respawning devils. ....however, you get sent to Hell if you "cast a spell" with a swear word in it. (Or use an item like a Hell Scroll or Adam's Apple that Randomly Drops). Ironically you get to keep your weapons in this case, and you can fire a weapon through the fire "walls" and the devils don't go through them. If you hit a devil with a boomerang enough times, they'll die....
- Wild ARMs 1: Metal Demon (in this case, it refers to a cyborg alien) Boomerang is killed defending the heroes by his fellow Metal Demons. But he comes back in the Monster Arena as a Bonus Boss. He explains that he fought his way from Hell. In the original, he turned his patron deity Guardian of Desire into a sword, in the remake, it's summon magic like the other Guardians.
- This is how the first and second Kid Icarus games start — Pit has fallen into Hades and must fight his way back up.
- Tales of Maj'Eyal: Playing as a Lost Soul in the roguelike, one has to fight their way from the Halls of the Dead. It's... very unlikely that you succeed, but if you do, you'll be WELL on your way to leveling up enough to beat the game.
- In Legend of Mana, the player character has to fight their way out of the Underworld each time they go there (though the last "obstacle" is just a friendly Shadole who offers you a free ride back to the world of the living), and also manages to prevent a Big Bad from making his takeover of the place permanent.
- Super Paper Mario: Mario and friends are thrown into the afterlife, and Mario fights his way in the Underwhere to find his brother Luigi. Queen Jaydes, who is not actually an evil person, allows them to return to the living world, and the duo continue to Chapter 7, which is... you guessed it, the afterlife again; but this time Mario and Luigi have to find Bowser, who is imprisoned in the Underwhere, and Peach, who is somewhere in the Overthere.
- To quote Sarevok from Baldur's Gate, "I swore I would scratch and crawl my way back into the world of the living, and I. HAVE. DONE IT!! HAHAHAHA!!!". Not mention getting killed TWICE before doing this.
- Team Fortress 2: In Halloween of 2011, a second boss monster was introduced called MONOCULUS! who had the power to drag nearby players into the underworld. Luckily the underworld is only about 100 square feet, and if you can reach the exit before your health is drained (or before victims on the other team kill you) you escape back to the mortal realm with full health and temporary invincibility, damage, and speed buffs.
- In Donald in Maui Mallard, everyone's favorite hothead, Donald Duck (oh, sorry, Maui Mallard), gets Dragged Off to Hell when a life is lost. When out of lives, he uses his pistol to blast his way out to the continue screen.
- In Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals, when Idura threatens to pull the party through a portal into a hellish dimension, Dekar makes an Heroic Sacrifice and pulls Idura along with him. Dekar not only fights his way out, but destroys the entire dimension while doing so and shows up just when Bound Kingdom needs him the most.
- A mechanic in Dominions, as units banished to Kokytos or the Infernal plains have a chance of escaping, either through power or just plain luck.
- Dawn of War: Azariah Kyras was on the Space Hulk Judgement of Carrion when it was sucked back into the Warp. He spent centuries in there, fighting daemons and other horrors, and when it returned to realspace he was rescued and became Chief Librarian and Chapter Master of the Blood Ravens. Shame he only survived by turning to Chaos while in there.
- The Reincarnation flash series of Adventure Games shows that escaping Hell is actually really easy since it just require taking a portal back to the human world. The player is an imp tasked by "Luke" to find the "Reincarnies", find proof that they're still evil (they always are) and send them back to Hell while making it look like an accident.
- Neverwinter Nights
- The entire third act of Hordes of the Underdark consists of the player trying to escape from the Eighth Circle of Hell after being killed by Mephistopheles.
- Ammon Jerro from Neverwinter Nights 2 fought his way free of the Nine Hells and back to the Prime Material Plane after being transported there by breaking the Sword of Gith fighting the Big Bad.
- Friday the 13th: The Game: This is the theme of the "Savini Jason" skin: a What If? that depicts what would have happened if Jason had escaped directly from Hell after the events of Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday, rather than being resurrected by Freddy in Freddy vs. Jason. As a result, Jason has become a demon; his skin and mask are charred and black, he possesses Spikes of Villainy, and his eyes burn with hellfire.
- Pinstripe: Ted and his daughter Bo are revealed to have been Dead All Along, with the gloomy setting being either Hell or Purgatory. After Ted defeats Pinstripe and comes to terms with his mistakes, he finds himself and Bo in an idyllic version of their hometown, implied to be Heaven, along with Bo's dead mother.
- This happens later on in Trails in the Sky The 3rd, with the twist that it's not actually Hell, but functionally the same thing: an exact replica of Hell as depicted in the world's scriptures. This is due to the game taking place inside a Lotus-Eater Machine that brings desires to life, and the protagonist being a priest and former Knight Templar church-sanctioned assassin who believes he deserves to go to Hell for his crimes. Overlaps with Rescued from the Underworld, as while the two main characters fight their way to Gehanna's gates, the gates themselves are broken down by the rest of the party from the outside.
- Gaming Guardians: When the defunct Scarlet Jester spots his friend in Hell, he starts a massive breakout with the sole goal of meeting the Devil and cutting a deal for said friend's salvation. Turns out the friend had already made such a deal, betting his own soul against Jester's that if Jester noticed him in hell he'd stop at nothing to break him out; having won his bet, both are free.
- In Narbonic, the minor character Seth is dragged into Hell by a visiting demon. Several years later, he returns when a gate is opened into the beyond. Apparently, he's picked up SEVERAL levels in badass on the way. Not to mention a really big axe.
- The Adventures of Dr. McNinja: Dr. McNinja fights his way out of the afterlife by double-teaming Death with the dual manifestations of his doctor and ninja personas.
- Parodied in Problem Sleuth, where, upon dying, characters are sent to the Afterlife (where they play various board games with Death), which they can simply open the door to and return to the land of the living, no "Fighting your way out" required (although Bumblebee Prof. gets sent to a different afterlife that doesn't seem escapable, and a more traditional Fire and Brimstone Hell is shown at some point). Later on, the door gets blocked, preventing any further escapes.
- Slightly Damned
- Rhea was sent to the Ring of the Slightly Damnednote (In function it's basically Purgatory but with more rocks) outside the true Hell and with the help of the kind-hearted demon Buwaro and his adoptive sister Sakido they are able to get to the Pillar of Light leading out of Hell but Sakido dies in the process.
- Later we learn that it's the goal of Hell's rulers (while the soldiers believe it to be the plan of their god Syndel) to abandon Hell and take Medius as their own and that they need to sacrifice living angels to create more of the gateways to do it.